Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


December is supposed to be a happy month, but for Jesse, it was the month her lover, Julia, died. Ever since then, she’s been a ghost in her mother’s apartment, barely holding herself together. Her mother, reaching for any straw, contacts an old friend, Gittie, who moved from Germany some years ago to start a small dude ranch in Texas. Soon, Jesse finds herself on a plane, flying across the ocean to America, whether she’s ready or not. When she meets a woman who looks very much like Julia, a woman she finds herself falling for, Jesse will have to decide wether she wants to live in the past or could be ready for something new.

Gwen is a hospitality agent and knows how to put on a smile and get things done. The biggest problem in her life is Madison, her ex-girlfriend, who just shot her drug dealer in front of Gwen … and then said see you later and vanished. Afraid she’ll be implicated in the death of a gang member, Gwen hightails it from Chicago to Texas, hoping to wait it out until things calm down. Betrayed, abandoned, and angry, the last thing Gwen needs is to fall for someone new.

As Gittie says, time and horses can heal the soul, and Gittie-Up Ranch will give them both.

This book is written by two authors, and you can feel it. Gwen’s chapters are lighter, with more of a rom-com feel, as Gwen is determined to be a ball of sunshine in everyone’s life, whether they want it or not. Jesse’s chapters are more quiet, as Jesse is struggling to heal. The one day she goes without thinking about Julia has her running into the woods in tears, ashamed that she was so disloyal as to enjoy something for one moment. As such, it’s a slow burn; the two characters don’t even meet until nearly halfway into the book, and even then, they don’t take to each other right away.

Jesse is more action driven, using her body and its exhaustion to quiet her thoughts. As such, the horses, who were a childhood love, with their need for action — for brushing, feeding, cleaning, and care — give her a respite from her pain. To simply be, to be able to give and receive in equal measure from horses who don’t need words, excuses, or explanations. Who let her be quiet, lost in thought, happy, or sad. Gwen is more thoughtful, always planning, preparing, over-planning, fretting, doubting, and judging. Many of the things she accuses Jesse of thinking or feeling aren’t Jesse, but Gwen’s own doubts externalized, which leads to some sparks of dislike and frustration, and an uneven and rocky beginning to a friendship.

Then the whole tone of the book changes into the standard romance, and it feels like the women are suddenly more driven by the needs of the plot rather than their characters. I didn’t mind the earlier slow pace of the story, or even the honest irritation and dislike the two characters seemed to have for one another, but then it just felt like it was time for them to fall in love and so they did. It was just such a tonal shift that I didn’t quite take to. There’s also the matter of their first time together, where Gwen is fast asleep, having a nightmare; Jesse comes in to comfort her and ends up having sex with her. While, later, it’s proven Gwen was awake for at least the end of it, the point is still there: Jesse took advantage of someone who couldn’t consent, but in the story it’s all good since both women got off. There’s also a bit of fat phobia and many comments on weight, which stood out to me.

Personally, I didn’t end up enjoying this book. The first half had promise, but the way things came together in the end didn’t work for me.